I can’t imagine that there’s anyone who hasn’t wanted, at least in a moment, to escape the life they’re living. Why? Where do those feelings come from? I think it’s about putting up with the same stuff day after day and getting to the point where we think, “Why am I doing this?” I think for some people it might be really bad – physical, emotional, sexual abuse – and there’s no option but to fantasize about getting away. I have no doubt that there’s people whose need to escape is about actual physical survival. Why do privileged people then think of escape? Monotony, boredom, knowing there’s life out there. It’s about being angry and having unmet expectations with the people that form our everyday life. It’s about feeling like you’ve been put in a cage. It’s fantasizing about showing them all what they’d be missing if we left their lives. At the same time, it’s about the adventure! It’s about the “what ifs”. Who would I meet, who would I become? If you truly know yourself, you also know that the people you encounter will influence you. Who would I become if I leave the world of the people who supposedly know me and venture into a world where no one does? “Where No One Knows Me” by Jann Arden is one of my favourite songs of all times.
Yep, packing up my life so far. Got my pictures, got my dog, I’m getting out of here! Going to find a place where no one knows me. Going to drive til I can’t even remember who I was when I left and it won’t even matter. Tore the rear view mirror down and wrapped it in my wedding gown.
Who doesn’t want that at some points in life? A truly fresh start. You could make yourself anyone. Everything you’ve resented, hated about yourself – gone! It would be the opportunity to make up your own story and become who you always wanted to be going forward, Possible?
It’s not. Who we are is based on our histories and the people we’ve known. Physically escaping them all will never change that. A true personal change will only happen when we accept who we are now, who we want to be, and start taking the steps to get there. Maybe running away might be a first step. It can’t be the only step. Before you get in the car and drive away, I think we need to ask ourselves, who is it we want to be and can I do that by making that decision and doing what needs to be done in the place where I’m actually living. What am I really trying to escape? Is it the people in my life or something I don’t like about me? Who created the bars of this cage I’m living in? There may be some very real cages but, again, for many of us, it’s the cages we’ve created for ourselves. It’s the bars we’ve put up around our own lives. It might be a sense of loyalty or responsibility. It may just be comfort. Our bars are our own and we choose to live within them. The decision to break the bars and escape is likely too scary – too many consequences. So, we continue to live in the cage and fantasize about escape.
How do we learn all this? What happened when you were a kid and threatened to run away? Why did you want to run away? The most typical reason is being mad at your parents. “I’m running away.” You think of the extreme emotion involved in making that statement. You’re so angry, wanting to punish your parents so bad and not caring that you don’t have a plan on how to survive in the world. You pack your bag and go. There may be some parents who prevent them walking out the door but anyone I know, including myself and my own parents, has let them go! Why? Seem mean? It’s because, as parents, we know their life is good, they don’t appreciate it, and they need the bit of the scare of walking away from the only life they know. As a parent, I also made sure I knew where my 7 year old was at every moment after he walked out the front door. He walked a few houses down, came back and sat outside our house. Going out to get him, in my mind, would have been the worse lessen. I waited until he came back in which seemed like hours and hours later. I also made sure that there was no anger and only acceptance when he came back through the front door. I told him I was happy he was back, I’d missed him and that he could always come home. My 4 year old, at the time, must have heard it because he’s never run away (well, not in that way anyway).
What do we learn by these situations? We learn the consequence of wanting to be separate from the worlds we were born into. We learn that leaving may mean a permanent separation. We learn it can be very lonely venturing into the world without the people who love us most.
Why, then, do we still fantasize about running away as adults? For me, it goes back to the cage. For 90% of my life, I might be happy living in the cage I’ve created for myself. But, there’s moments I want to be free. I want out. Then, I remember what walking away from everything I know and love will feel like and I change my mind. For some, maybe the reality of their lives is worse than anything else. Maybe that’s why people choose to take their own lives.. They say people who die by suicide do it because the pain of living is worse than the consequence of dying. Isn’t that the balance we all play with? Are the consequences of leaving better than the consequences of staying? Suicide is very much the great escape and I can’t even begin to think that I have any understanding of the level of anguish that comes for people to think dying is better than living. If you think of running away, though, the concept is the same. Is the pain of me staying better than the pain of abandoning everything I know and running away?
For all of us, it becomes a decision. Do I stay or do I go? If I stay there will be trouble, if I leave it will be double. I think some musician sang that at some point. I’ve figured out for me, it’s not about needing to decide – it’s about knowing I can decide. It’s not about leaving my life, it’s about knowing I can if I want to. Maybe for some, it’s about dying. For me, it’s knowing I can run away. I can cash in life today as I know it and take off. As long as I know I can (and I might spend hours or days planning it), I always decide to stay. I recognize how good my life really is and how not having what I do would be too much of a consequence for me to leave. The new Shawn Mendes song – “it isn’t in my blood. Sometimes I feel like giving up but I can’t. I’m overwhelmed and insecure. Just have a drink and you’ll feel better. Help me! It’s like the walls are caving in. Someone help me. I’m crawling in my skin. I need somebody now.” Our moments of vulnerability. We all have them. They are part of life. Again, it comes down to choice and decision. Is what I’m feeling right now just a vulnerable moment or do I need to make a change in my life? Is escape, of any kind, going to help anything? Is it a moment or has it become the focus of my life? Only I have control over my life, no matter the circumstances around me. I can decide. I can decide. I can decide.